I can call you Kate, right? I mean, we writers are all one great, big “us,” right? And, after all, Red Hen once published a piece of mine in the Los Angeles Review. You won’t think this letter is “sour grapes” if your own damn lit mag once published me?
I’m sorry to have to bother you, because goddamn, I can’t even imagine how fucking hard it is for a white publisher living in lonely, lonely Los Angeles when we marginalized writers get all uppity about petty issues like EVERY disability panel getting rejected or the AWP conference failing to accommodate for disabilities, or to represent its diverse membership, or even to recognize the basic humanity of people of color.
It’s awfully rude of me to ruin your transcendent experience of “being part of something bigger” by asking if pretty please, could I be part it, too? … Please accept my sincere apology.
And now that I have that out of the way …
- In your Huffpost piece, you wrote:* (UPDATE: The original Huffpost piece has been removed and replaced with a non-apology, but the original is cached here.)
AWP — Associated Writing Programs is a membership organization which connects writers, MFA programs and publishers, but many of those members treat it like it’s the government out to oppress us, the man, the ogre in the closet. When we get upset, we hurl insults or questions via the web. Social media and emails allow us to behave like we’re driving on a freeway. From our cars, we remain invisible. We can drive like crazy people, and we have the option of yelling threats from the safety of our offices at the organization that includes us. I have news for you people, there is no us and them. AWP is us.
No, Kate, my speaking out about disability exclusion at AWP is not like “driving on a freeway.” Some of us have NEVER DRIVEN ON A FREEWAY. Or on any road, because our disabilities preclude it. You see, I have epilepsy, and it’s not well-controlled, meaning I have no driver’s license. You lost me in the first paragraph.
Your Huffpost piece happened to publish on the same day I had to fire the only doctor I ever trusted because he opened a fancy clinic in the suburbs that is not accessible to me … because — wait for it! — SLC is designed for cars & public transit here leaves a lot to be desired. So for you to compare my speaking out about discrimination to “driving like crazy people” … well, my privileged, white, able-bodied darling, all it does is prove my point.
Also, did you seriously call us “crazy” for speaking up? As a person with bipolar disorder, I love it when people reduce me to “crazy.” It’s so empowering and inclusive. It makes me feel part of a great big joke.
You think Los Angeles makes you feel lonely and isolated now? Try living there with uncontrolled epilepsy and get back to me.
2. You also wrote:
One of the complaints lobbed at AWP is for not enough inclusion of different groups, another is for more transparency. This summer I was at a dinner and someone leaned across to me and confided, “AWP hates Native Americans.”
“Really now?” I said, “I’m going to be in Washington this summer and I’d love to discuss this with them.” I took out a pen and paper. “Who hates Indians at the office there? Is it Fenza?” I pictured David Fenza saddling up a horse, Stetson in place, going out to shoot Indians. It was an unlikely image. The woman began fumbling around; she couldn’t tell me who the Indian hater was.
So even though you were JUST griping in the first paragraph about social media sucker punches … Now you’re annoyed/amused/miffed because someone raised an issue with you in person?
WHERE, then, is the “proper” place to discuss it?
According to you, it’s the phone: “If we the people wish something could be different, one option is to call that office. A person will pick up the phone and talk to you if you do. A real live person.”
Well, isn’t that inclusive? I have trouble hearing. I can use the phone, but it’s not the easiest thing, and with my word-finding issues from Chiari, I stumble sometimes, and I tend to get flustered and stressed.
I can’t get to the conference to discuss it with a real live person *in person* … so that’s out. (And besides, look how you handled it when someone spoke up to you in person? Did you respond in a way that encourages others to do the same?)
These days, I am often in excruciating pain. Social media makes it possible for me to speak up in a way that I haven’t been able to before, and in a medium in which I can mostly manage my disabilities.
Be honest now … What you really mean is, you don’t want people raising these issues in public. You want it on the phone so nobody has to see it. Let’s keep these complaints our little secret.
You complained on the Internet about people complaining on the Internet. Hypocrite much? Is it only OK to blog, tweet, or FB-post about these issues when the author supports the status quo? Because that’s the vibe I’m getting.
Now, let me address your weird little fantasy of David Fenza saddling up to shoot “Indians.” As several people have pointed out in the comments on your piece, do you honestly believe that discrimination and hate always look like that? Seriously? Do you really think that an organization is magically free of institutionalized racism because you can’t point a finger at a specific individual for saying he hates _____ (fill-in-the-blank-here)?
I know you’re giddy from being part of something bigger now, but … as I like to remind my able-bodied friends: You are one head trauma away from being an epileptic like me. One car accident or infection away from losing a limb. One serious illness or injury away from losing your sight. You never know if your hearing will go. You never know if an emotional trauma will leave you with PTSD. Or if you will develop chronic pain or an autoimmune disease.
If you speak up on behalf of disabled writers, you might also be speaking up for your future self, one you have never imagined.
For more responses to Gale, check out:
Debbie Reese, who poses some very important questions about Kate Gale imagining the shooting of Native Americans: “I wonder if Gale has Native friends or colleagues? I wonder if she reads Native writers? The answer to those questions may be yes, but none of them came to mind in her imagining. Instead, she went to a historical time period. That reflects the tendency to think of Native peoples as part of the past, not present.”